Hi, I’m back with my inconsistent ‘weekly’ postings. *My mom’s voice* “Where is week 9-10?” Sorry mom. A lot has happened over these past two weeks including a UCEAP organized trip to Nanjing. Honestly can’t believe there’s less than two months left in the program now. I haven’t even walked through half of Beijing.
First topic of the post is classes. All the 汉语学院 classes get to choose an cultural activity each semester. This time we got to choose from the Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven, the Beijing Botanical Gardens, dumpling making, calligraphy, Chinese painting, and Chinese knot. Our class ended up with Chinese knots through “Chinese democracy” (term from my Chinese teacher) and I was apprehensive at first because…I mean…knots…I can learn that myself right? The activity ended up being really fun and now I have a cute 粽子 (zongzi) shaped charm hanging in my room. Just in time for the Dragon Boat Festival which really should be known as the Duanwu Festival, which holds a lot more significance than just racing boats (also important, but only a part of the Duanwu Festival).
Midterms were last week so I didn’t have any Chinese language courses for a week. Bless. Too bad that week was spent hardcore studying since we had to go to Nanjing on the weekend and didn’t get any time to study (also because we have zero memory retention skills). I learned probably half a thousand characters within three days-I don’t think my Chinese skills have ever been so good. I ended up getting a 98% (minus one because I went to Japan during a school day oops) so yay!
After midterms, I had dinner with two of my friends where I got to practice my Korean for the first time since leaving Korea and oh my gosh…I don’t know how to conjugate anymore. We had some lame budaejigae and cracked up after we accidentally sent the wrong sticker to an ahjussi that my friend was trying to be cordial to. Wechat stickers are dangerous. Also had some delicious pork belly with two other 班长s (班长s unite!) and our friend so that was fun too.
As mentioned above, UCEAP decided to take us to Nanjing the weekend before midterms. Despite our continuous moaning about failing tests throughout the four hour bullet train ride, everyone had tons of fun there.
For those who don’t know, Nanjing was once the capital of the Republic of China (which existed from around 1912-1949 before the People’s Republic of China) and was also one of the ancient capitals. The city holds a lot of historical significance and today. There are many museums and memorials there that tell the complex and multifaceted story of China’s development into the modern age. It’s an interesting place where many factions have coexisted and collided. If you want to learn about all the different sides of China’s identity, definitely visit Nanjing.
We headed out of Beijing on Friday and I got to experience my first bullet train ride in China. Everyone had their books out for “studying” we were just being super loud and unproductive. Sorry to everyone in our car train. After arriving in Nanjing, we had a free night out so we headed to the nearby Confucius Temple street to try out some local eats and do some shopping.
The next day, we picked up our UCEAP Shanghai friends and then headed to the Presidential Palace. There was way too many people inside the buildings so after I gave a brief history and tour to my friends (I know, I’m so smart), we spent our time wandering through the lush gardens and snapping photos. The Presidential Palace was basically the White House of the Republic of China and housed the headquarter’s of the nation for a brief period of time until Mao declared the victory of the CCP and Beijing as the capital.
After visiting the Presidential Palace, we traveled to the foot of the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum for some Nanjing cuisine. We then sweated our way up the steps of the mausoleum where we became a tourist attraction since we were tall, dressed funny, and some of us didn’t look Asian. Sun Yat-sen is known as the “father of the Republic of China” or modern China. He was responsible for ending the Qing dynasty and establishing the beginnings of a democratic system.
We also visited the Wuliang Hall and Linggu Pagoda located in the same area. Wuliang hall is a memorial to the soldiers that lost their lives in the Northern Expedition, where the Nationalist government army, led by Chiang Kai-shek, moved to unify China and brought an end to the Warlord Era. It was a turning point for China, where although the government finally had control over the warlords, the two line between the two sides, Nationalist and Communist, were really beginning to turn against each other with the purging of communists from the Nationalist Party. The pagoda was also erected in honor of the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the unification of a nation.
On Sunday, we headed to Xuanwu Lake to get a panoramic view of Nanjing before going to the Nanjing Massacre Museum. The end of the museum had shelves and shelves of historical information detailing the lives, family, and death of the victims. Being able to read some of it, and having friends reading it out loud together made the Nanjing Massacre even more real. The museum was very informative and graphic and caused much discussion between everyone about the events that transpired. Everyone had something to share about the event, whether it be the lack of knowledge about it or similar experiences in another country.
While we were waiting for the rest of our group to come out, we experience a minor altercation with some tourists. We were sitting under a tree when a family approached my friends for a picture. “We’ve never seen a white or black person before! Can we take a picture?” they asked. Seeing that they had a kid, my friends said yes, but soon enough a hoard of people surrounded us, all taking pictures, asking weird questions, touching. It soon became too much and even when we asked them to stop, they persisted to take pictures. Despite all the international cities China has, there are still many places in the large nation where people are just beginning to experience the world and it will be many years before these things become less common.
Thank you UCEAP for such an informative and well-planned trip. We had lots of fun trying out all the different foods and learning about Chinese history in Nanjing. I’ve actually been to Nanjing before and know a lot about modern Chinese history, especially during the Republic of China and World War II era so it was nice to see fellow UCEAP students learn about a part of history that we don’t necessarily focus on in America and to also have everyone share their experiences and stories regarding that time in history.
Beijing Film Festival
Just in case we were screwed enough for midterms because of Nanjing, the Beijing Film Festival decided to start on our midterm week as well. My friends and I bought tickets for 20th Century Women, an American film about a mother and son in 1979 Santa Barbara. The film was packed with meaning and questions regarding family, growing up, and the living between generations. It made me realize what a different world we live in now. It made me think about the stark differences in experience people from the last generation, from the 1960s, from 1940s, from the 1920s had while growing up and how much it affects people and the relations they build. It also made me think of my own family, and how I never gave a thought about my parents before they were my parents. What kind of people were they? What was their world like? One of the most memorable moments in the film was when the mother, Dorothea, said that she would never see her son as he truly is out in the world. It really hit me then- the position of a parent wanting to know, to understand, and never really being able to because we aren’t the same with our parents as we are when we become independent in the world. The film was truly touching and eye-opening for me and made me homesick for my parents and California.
Dad came to visit!
My dad came for a visit weekend of Week 10 so we got to have some really rare father-daughter bonding time. I visited the Beijing Botanical Gardens with him and we took lots of pretty flower pictures together, and he became my photographer for the day (thanks Dad). We also tried out the Moscow Restaurant since they always film stuff there. The food was nice, but the cake…I felt like I could make it better. The place is definitely worth a visit though, and I would like to try the French Mediterranean restaurant across from it next time. We also visited the Gubei Water Town (古北水镇) which is a newly constructed water town replicating the water towns of ancient China. It’s a super cute and picturesque place. They really spent a lot of time making it authentic and although it’s newly constructed, the area does hold historical significance as one of the final points in the establishment of the Ming dynasty. You can also see the Great Wall from there. We spent our Sunday at Guomao enjoying afternoon tea at Atmosphere Bar and eating some fancy Peking Duck before my dad headed back down south.
I’m actually interning with TEDxBeijing right now and we’re planning our May event which is at the end of the week and I’m super excited for it. I’ve never done anything like this before (desk job all day, everyday) and it’s been a learning experience.
I’m also very sick, but so is everyone else. Oh spring. The weather is nice though…but can’t enjoy it when your head is about to explode.